Now that the dust has settled after the deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft, teams can finally evaluate their rosters for the coming season.
With the Kentucky Wildcats returning both EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards, it is unanimously accepted that the Wildcats were among the major winners of the draft process.
In Jeff Borzello’s column on ESPN, he outlined the winners and losers from deadline day. In addition to writing about the strength of Kentucky’s front court once the two big men announced their return, he went on to speculate that neither of those decision may be their biggest victory.
The Wildcats had a couple players leave earlier this spring, but received good news when Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery decided to return to Lexington. Kentucky was a little thin on the interior, with only Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina in the post position. Richards and Montgomery aren’t game-changers right now, but they provide much-needed depth for John Calipari. Another plus for Calipari is that Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. decided to withdraw his name from the draft. Kentucky is an option for Blackshear.
Rob Dauster of Yahoo Sports made sure to note that Kentucky had already gotten huge news earlier this offseason when Ashton Hagans decided to skip the draft and return for his sophomore season.
Like Gonzaga, Kentucky lost a number of players to early entry, but for my money, they are still a winner on this list. That’s because they returned both E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards, giving them some talent, depth and versatility in their frontcourt. They also return Ashton Hagans, who did not even declare for this year’s draft.
Jeff Goodman of WatchStadium notes that both Montgomery and Richards made the right decision to return to college.
EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards aren’t exactly world-beaters, but John Calipari needed something besides Bucknell grad transfer Nate Sestina up front. There was a thought that Montgomery was going to keep his name in the draft, but he and Richards will both return to Lexington. The trio will be more than serviceable — and this was the correct decision, especially for Montgomery.
Kevin Flaherty of 247 Sports thinks Kentucky and SEC foe LSU were arguably the biggest winners of the deadline.
Kentucky was maybe the second-biggest winner (to LSU). The Wildcats received good news early and late in the process, first when Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley elected to return, giving Kentucky a pair of former 247Sports Composite five-star guards coming back for their second seasons. Then Nick Richards decided to come back to Lexington, followed by EJ Montgomery on decision day. Kentucky’s incoming class, ranked No. 2 in the 247Sports Composite, is packed full of talented wings, and should fill in the gaps perfectly. Richards and Montgomery should form a terrific center duo and allow Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina to play more of the stretch four role he’s accustomed to.
I’m sure there were very few members of Big Blue Nation that were disappointed with either decisions. With a deep back court and wings for days, the paint was where the 2019-2020 Wildcats were desperate for depth. Richards and Montgomery certainly solidify that depth, and either of them could have a breakout year and turn into a star.
But are we even sure that Kentucky is finished with the roster for next season?